Philips DECT Cordless Phone: Functional, But Seriously Flawed

I bought this phone system on Woot.com in response to my wife’s request that we get something new for our home line. At $49 it was at least a serious bargain. I see this very system offered on Amazon.com for $80. With four handsets and a base even that seems like a good price.

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The package was impressive. Truly impressive. The phones were in clear view with specific mention of  “High Definition Audio” nearby. Yes the packaging indicates that the merchandising people at Philips are really on-the-ball.

The whole “High Definition Audio” thing seems more than a little strained when you consider that the phone provides only an analog POTS interface. If it were a SIP device, IP capable, then perhaps the enhanced audio quality might amount to something. At present it seems only really realized as a function of the intercom between handsets.  It’s unclear if the transducers (mic, speakers) actually deliver upon the promise of the G.722 codec specified in the DECT Forum CAT iQ directive.

The real annoyance that this phone presents is the LCD display on the handsets.

To put it simply…they SUCK!

For some reason Philips decided that it would be cool to use a blue LED backlight for the LCD display. Well, blue LEDs are really bright. In fact, too bright as they cause the LCD to be very washed out. In many cases there simply not enough contrast to see the display.

The LCD contrast is software adjustable in 5 steps, but this doesn’t make enough difference to help much. Here’s a little gallery stepping through the contrast settings just to illustrate the point. No flash was used in taking these photos and I was careful to maintain the same exposure for each image.

The backlight is software adjustable, but the adjustment consists of a simple ON or OFF.

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Backlight On

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Backlight Off

In bright daylight turning the backlight off works just fine. But in the evening they become unreadable and some form of backlight is required. But if you turn on the backlight it’s so bright that the display is washed out. No wonder these things were offered on Woot!

I did a little digging around online and found that prior Philips DECT systems used amber LCD backlights. They were pretty  bright too, but not as bright as the blue lights on these handsets. The decision to go into production with the blue backlights must be seen as one heckuva blunder. I can’t image that anyone in product management actually looked at these things comprehensively before release to manufacturing.

We’ve not ever heard dial tone on these yet, but already I can see them being a temporary resident in our home.

I even wonder if it’s worth entering all of our contacts into one of the handsets. If Stella doesn’t like them for the shoddy LCD display it’d be a lot of work for nothing. Unlike the snom m3 or Siemens S685IP there’s not way to conveniently upload a contact list. It’ll be an hour or more of tapping on the keys to get it done. At least it does support copying the contact list between handsets.

Sometimes the apparent good deal is not the best value. And, as ever, life’s too short to suffer a shoddy phone.